CTiS 2019 Conference

CSpathshala is a not for profit initiative under ACM India, to bring a modern computing curriculum emphasising on problem solving and computational thinking skills, to Indian schools. The mission is to prepare our students to participate creatively in the digital age, industry leaders and top academicians in the country are working together to bring a computational thinking curriculum for primary and secondary schools along with teaching aids.

CTiS 2019, the first All India conference on Computational Thinking in Schools (, was held in Pune on April 20, 2019. More than 140 delegates which included teachers, Principals and Organizations working in the field of education from 20 cities and 7 states of the country attended.

Vipul Shah, Head of the CSpathshala initiative in his opening remarks said, “Computing is touching our lives in more ways than before and we need to actively prepare our students for this new world. We started with a modest beginning with 15 pilot schools and have now reached 3 Lakh students in 750 schools across 11 states in three years. CSpathshala is increasingly becoming an enabler fostering a community of teachers, volunteers and partners and engaging students through various programs. CSpathshala also prepares students for competitions like the Bebras Challenge in Computational Thinking (https://bebras.cspathshala.org/) where more than 130,000 students participated last year – and many of the toppers were from the rural and tribal schools!”

A teacher from a Pune school had actually come on stage dressed as a robot and demonstrated how a child interacted with this robot to give specific and clear instructions to do things!

The keynote session from Prof. Ramanujam from The Institute of Mathematical Sciences was one of the best lectures I have heard to date. He spoke at length about how we need to move from “Silent Classrooms” (where the teacher keeps asking the children to keep quiet most of the times) to a class room that encourages argumentation, discussion between the children and letting them arrive at answers than simply dictating the answers to them. He gave several examples that directly connected with all the teachers and listeners alike.

CTiS2019 featured presentations by teachers from across the country on how schools are integrating CT activities with physical computing and mathematics. Dr. Anantha Narayanan from Coimbatore, who had come with several sensors and an Arduino board (Arduino is an open source electronics prototyping platform using which, children can design things) and examples of projects done by his students. Mrs. Manisha Girolkar from Pune also showed videos of some models built by students – like the model of a bus, where there is a sensor where every passenger getting in gets counted and every passenger getting out gets counted and based on that the door of the bus to enter opens to let new people in .

Some stalwarts like Dr. Abhiram Ranade (IIT Bombay) and the President of ACM India, Dr. H.V. Sahasrabudhe, Dr. Venkatesh Raman (IMSc) and the Vice President, ACM India, Dr. Madhavan Mukund (Dean of Studies and a professor of computer science at Chennai Mathematical Institute) attended the conference.

Teachers showcased how Sudoku could be taught with fruits instead of numbers, how paths in graphs can be used to find shorter routes to visit specific Ganesh stalls in Pune during the Ganesh festival, how following instructions can be taught by playing a Robot game, how algorithms can be used to minimize search space when guessing birth-dates, and how floor space can be effectively used to engage and train students on recognizing patterns.

Mr. Divy Thakker from Google India also spoke on CS First an initiative to teach programming to students. The event demonstrated that computing goes beyond the simple ability to use computers, and can be taught and discussed in schools without the use of computers.

A. Surendra, state coordinator, Andhra Pradesh Department of Social Welfare, shared that CTiS provided an opportunity to teachers to share and learn about the CT implementation from different schools from states across the country. Santosh Hande, Zilla Parishad School, Khed shared that, “CTiS provided a platform for the Zilla Parishad teachers to share their experiences in implementing CT activities with other schools.” Asmita Mulay, Maths Teacher from School Of Scholars, Amravati said “CSpathshala is the way to provide an innovation in studies with fantastic worksheets.” Pratiksha Majumdar, Meghe Group of Schools, Nagpur said that “CTiS is the only platform for school computer teachers to interact with other computer teachers.”

One of the talks which struck a chord was from Ms. Premlata Shaji, who spoke about how she conducts the CT classes for children with learning disabilities. Many teachers contacted her for taking this up in their areas.

An activity was conducted for the benefit of other teachers. 3 males on one side, 3 females on the other with an empty chair in between. Males and Females have to exchange sides with each being able to slide in the opposite direction to an empty chair or jump over one person of the opposite gender to an empty chair. Everyone participated in guiding them and had a lot of fun and learning.

In her closing remarks Ms. Sonia Garcha said that Sharing is Learning and CSpathshala has been working towards creating a Community of Practice that provides a platform for educators to contribute, share experiences and resources as well as learn from each other and organizing the CTiS2019 conference is part of this larger process!

Teachers from rural areas told about how the parents of these children from a rural area were impressed with what their children were learning and they donated 3 computers to the school. One of the parents gave a donation of Rs. 5,000 (which is not a very small amount for that locale) to the school to buy a solar panel and battery for the computer, when he saw his daughter appear in the bebras competition (and that too Online!) . Such stories were a great motivator for all teachers and many of them who were not members of CS Pathshala, decided to join the programme.

The conference was very successful and teachers said that they look forward to the next one!

Arun Kadekodi
Soft Corner

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